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reported speech


reported speech

Reporting Talk: Reported Speech in Interaction by Rebecca Clift and Elizabeth Holt (Cambridge University Press, 2007)


The report of one speaker or writer on the words said, written, or thought by someone else.

In traditional grammar, reported speech is generally used as a synonym for indirect speech (in which the original speaker's thoughts are conveyed without using the speaker's exact words) as opposed to direct speech (in which the original speaker's words are quoted verbatim). However, some linguists have challenged the validity of this distinction.

See also:


  • "Reported speech is not just a particular grammatical form or transformation, as some grammar books might suggest. We have to realise that reported speech represents in fact a kind of translation, a transposition that necessarily takes into account two different cognitive perspectives: the point of view of the person whose utterance is being reported, and that of a speaker who is actually reporting that utterance."
    (Teresa Dobrzyńska, "Rendering Metaphor in Reported Speech," in Relative Points of View: Linguistic Representation of Culture, ed. by Magda Stroińska. Berghahn Books, 2001)

  • "[Erving] Goffman's work has proven foundational in the investigation of reported speech itself. While Goffman is not in his own work concerned with the analysis of actual instances of interaction (for a critique, see Schlegoff, 1988), it provides a framework for researchers concerned with investigating reported speech in its most basic environment of occurrence: ordinary conversation."
    (Rebecca Clift and Elizabeth Holt, Introduction. Reporting Talk: Reported Speech in Interaction. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)

  • "I wish to question the conventional American literal conception of 'reported speech' and claim instead that uttering dialogue in conversation is as much a creative act as is the creation of dialogue in fiction and drama. . . .

    "The casting of thoughts and speech in dialogue creates particular scenes and characters--and . . . it is the particular that moves readers by establishing and building on a sense of identification between speaker or writer and hearer or reader. As teachers of creative writing exhort neophyte writers, the accurate representation of the particular communicates universality, whereas direct attempts to represent universality often communicate nothing."
    (Deborah Tannen, Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse, 2nd ed. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)

  • "[R]eported speech occupies a prominent position in our use of language in the context of the law. Much of what is said in this context has to do with rendering people's sayings: we report the words that accompany other people's doings in order to put the latter in the correct perspective. As a consequence, much of our judiciary system, both in the theory and in the practice of law, turns around the ability to prove or disprove the correctness of a verbal account of a situation. The problem is how to summarize that account, from the initial police report to the final imposed sentence, in legally binding terms, so that it can go 'on the record,' that is to say, be reported in its definitive, forever immutable form as part of a 'case' in the books."
    (Jacob Mey, When Voices Clash: A Study in Literary Pragmatics. Walter de Gruyter, 1998)
Also Known As: reported discourse, indirect speech
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